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Religion news in brief

Wednesday - 7/3/2013, 11:46am  ET

The Associated Press

Vatican commission clears John Paul II for sainthood, may be canonized with John XXIII

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II has cleared the final obstacle before being made a saint, awaiting just the final approval from Pope Francis and a date for the ceremony that could come as soon as Dec. 8, a Vatican official and news reports said Tuesday.

The ANSA news agency reported that a commission of cardinals and bishops met Tuesday to consider John Paul's case and signed off on it. A Vatican official confirmed that the decision had been taken some time back and that Tuesday's meeting was essentially a formality.

One possible canonization date is Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a major feast day for the Catholic Church. This year the feast coincidentally falls on a Sunday, which is when canonizations usually occur.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized by the church to discuss saint-making cases on the record, confirmed reports in La Stampa newspaper that John Paul could be canonized together with Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council but died in 1963 before it was finished.

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Man, 51, arrested after fight over church pew space during Utah baby blessing service

PLAIN CITY, Utah (AP) -- Utah authorities say a dispute over pew space during a Mormon church baby blessing led to a bloody nose.

Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther says officers were called Sunday morning to a Plain City meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lowther says a family had saved some seats so they could have a better view of the baby blessing.

Witnesses say the argument began when 51-year-old Wayne Dodge sat in the section.

The dispute continued after the service, with Dodge allegedly punching a man in the face. Officials say the victim was also struck by Dodge's vehicle in the parking lot and ended up on the hood.

Dodge was booked into the Weber County jail on suspicion of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct.

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Irish lawmakers give strong initial approval for bill allowing abortions in health emergencies

DUBLIN (AP) -- Ireland appeared on course to legalize abortion in extremely restricted circumstances as lawmakers voted Tuesday to support a bill that would permit pregnancies to be terminated when deemed necessary to save the woman's life.

Catholic leaders warned that the proposed law, which faces a final vote next week, would become a "Trojan horse" leading eventually to widespread abortion access in Ireland. But Prime Minister Enda Kenny insisted Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion would remain unaffected, and his government's Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill won overwhelming backing in a 138-24 vote.

Ireland's 1986 constitutional ban on abortion commits the government to defend the life of the unborn and the mother equally. Ireland's abortion law has been muddled since 1992, when the Supreme Court ruled that this "ban" actually meant that terminations should be legal if doctors deem one essential to safeguard the life of the woman -- including, most controversially, from her own suicide threats.

Six previous governments refused to pass a law in support of the Supreme Court judgment, citing its suicide-threat rule as open to abuse. This left Irish hospitals uncertain and hesitant to provide any abortions and spurred many pregnant women in medical or psychological crises to seek abortions in neighboring England, where the practice has been legal since 1967.

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French far-right leader Marine Le Pen stripped of European Parliament immunity in racism case

PARIS (AP) -- French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was stripped of her European Parliament immunity and may now face charges of racism over comments she made comparing Muslim street prayers to an occupation of French territory.

The European Parliament voted by a show of hands during a meeting in Strasbourg to withdraw Le Pen's immunity at the request of a French prosecutor. The parliament's judicial affairs committee recommended the move last month so that Le Pen could defend herself against the charges, filed by an anti-racism association.

Le Pen has reiterated the remarks first made in 2010, and on Tuesday said she stands behind them and looks forward to defending her comments in front of a judge.

"I'm going to defend myself before the court, and I'm absolutely convinced that the court will rule in my favor and protect my right to say to the French the truth about the situation, notably prayers in the streets, but not only that," Le Pen said in an interview on French television channel BFM.

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